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Saturday free practice review 05 Jul 2003

Ralf Schumacher (GER) Williams BMW FW25.
Formula One World Championship, Rd10, French Grand Prix, Magny-Cours, France, 5 July 2003

The fastest times for Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya in morning practice bode well for Williams' prospects in qualifying at Magny-Cours this afternoon.

After Fernando Alonso and Rubens Barrichello led the way in the first three-quarter hour session, the Williams drivers hit their stride in the second.

Following yesterday's rain everyone had to start their homework on race preparation and tyre evaluation all over again, with the added complication that the track conditions were improving throughout the two sessions, which meant chasing set-up all morning.

"It's been a useful morning as far as tyre comparisons are concerned and we are very happy with both cars," technical director Patrick Head said. "It will be very tight between the top four teams. We have a little bit of tyre graining but nothing serious, and it looks like Ferrari is quick in the first sector which means that we will have to take care and make sure that they do not pass us in the race."

Ralf Schumacher said he was very happy on his way to the fastest time of 1m 14.966s, while Montoya was happier at the end of the session after dialling out a bottoming problem early on and later understeer. He lapped in 1m 15.577s.

At McLaren David Coulthard had a welcome fillip with third fastest time in 1m 15.600s, while team mate Kimi Raikkonen was fifth on 1m 16.012s. The Scot had one incident when he spun over the new kerbs at the end of the lap, but his MP4-17D was undamaged. "They are a bit higher than they need to be," he said. "Otherwise, the car felt pretty good and it was just a case of finding the best balance we could in the time available."

Michael Schumacher was fourth fastest for Ferrari, in 1m 15.918s, and Rubens Barrichello ninth on the time he set in the first session. "The Bridgestone tyres are better than at the Nurburgring," said technical director Ross Brawn. "It looks like our rivals are fast over one lap but we are more consistent." Interestingly, down at Jordan Gary Anderson was saying just the opposite.

Brawn said that he envisages pole position being very difficult to achieve this afternoon, but is optimistic for Ferrari's race chances.

Renault had an uneventful practice. After setting fastest time in the first session, Alonso ended up sixth overall on 1m 16.039s, with Jarno Trulli 10th on 1m 16.376s "The car has come on well, it's competitive and we are quick in all the sectors," the Italian said. Both drivers said they did all their programmes, and were happy with the balance of their R23s.

Jaguar's expectation of going strongly this weekend was justified by Mark Webber's seventh best time of 1m 16.112s, and Antonio Pizzonia was 11th on 1m 17.036s. They each did a lot of laps, pounding round to evaluate tyre choice for qualifying.

Toyota is quietly optimistic, with Olivier Panis eighth on 1m 16.133s and Cristiano da Matta 13th on his first session 1m 17.118s. At BAR Jenson Button lost an engine at the end of the first session, and had to rely on his time of 1m 17.341s from that for 14th overall, two places behind team-mate Jacques Villeneuve who spun in the first session but recovered to record 1m 17.101s.

Giancarlo Fisichella struggled with the handling of his Jordan for 16th best time, and the Sauber drivers were 15th and 17th, Frentzen and Heidfeld respectively, with Ralph Firman 18th ahead of Minardi pilots Jos Verstappen and Justin Wilson.

NOTE: The above report uses cumulative times (see timesheet below) from Saturday's two practice sessions in order to determine a definitive order.

Cumulative times from Saturday's two practice sessions:

1. Ralf Schumacher - 1.14.966
2. Juan Pablo Montoya - 1.15.577
3. David Coulthard - 1.15.600
4. Michael Schumacher - 1.15.918
5. Kimi Raikkonen - 1.16.012
6. Fernando Alonso - 1.16.039
7. Mark Webber - 1.16.112
8. Olivier Panis - 1.16.133
9. Rubens Barrichello - 1.16.190
10. Jarno Trulli - 1.16.376
11. Antonio Pizzonia - 1.17.036
12. Jacques Villeneuve - 1.17.101
13. Cristiano da Matta - 1.17.118
14. Jenson Button - 1.17.341
15. Heinz-Harald Frentzen - 1.17.776
16. Giancarlo Fisichella - 1.17.908
17. Nick Heidfeld - 1.18.057
18. Ralph Firman - 1.18.670
19. Jos Verstappen - 1.18.696
20. Justin Wilson - 1.19.044

For Saturday practice 1 results click here
For Saturday practice 2 results click here